"I was able to find an old German from the First [World] War, he was a first war veteran and I told him it was over and he was the superintendent looking after the telephone exchange. And I asked him if he had a bottle of wine and he said, yes. So he got us a bottle of wine and this other fellow and I sat down and drank the wine. And that was the war, it was over for us, we were so pleased. It’s hard to explain how we felt."
We were excited to go, yeah. We wanted to get over and get it over with because we all felt the sooner we get it over with, the sooner we go home because we were Army Signals, they were headquarter troops. But the particular unit I was with, wherever they needed someone to build a telephone line, they sent us.
When we arrived, we got across the ocean, across the [English] Channel it was, it wasn’t a rough crossing at all. In fact, it was on a Sunday afternoon I think, if I remember correctly, and we were surprised when we got there, things were so quiet except for the fact you could hear the guns in the distance. But when we landed on the French shores [in Normandy, July of 1944] that had been cleared since June, see, so therefore, we didn’t see much action there. And then of course, within the next few days after we landed, they sent us out to various units and all we did was build telephone lines.
We built telephone lines that went from 2nd Canadian Corps Headquarters to various divisions, to the 3rd Division and 2nd Division, and 4th [Armoured] Division, too, because the 4th [Armoured] Division just landed at the same time we did.
The only thing in regards to the enemy was we had to be careful of enemy aircraft. That’s the only thing. They would come along and strafe the roads of wherever we were working, see. The pilots of the enemy aircraft would be looking for any activity on the ground.
We had to build new lines as the army advanced and I remember at the time, our unit was responsible to do something like 20 kilometres. There was another unit was responsible for another 20 kilometres, so that we were able to keep up with the army as they moved forward.
Well, we were actually, most of the time, we were close to the coast as we advanced north. It was along the coast of France and then to Belgium.
Well, I remember going into, the second time, I don’t know whether you know it or not but the Germans had built a lot of underground communications. And therefore, we was able to tap into the underground communications because of the fact we had already plotted where it was going. So it was our responsibility then to try to restore some of the underground work.
We were sent to different spots and I remember one spot, we were right outside of Dieppe, a place called Puys. And that was where, oddly enough, where the Canadians landed at the first time around [during the Dieppe Raid, August 19th, 1942]. And I remember my units had moved on and they left two of us there to maintain what we called the test point. It was an underground communication system and at that particular place, we were underground and we were left there and of course, we ran out of rations. So I went to the village and I spoke to a lady there in a store and asked them if they had any eggs and she said no. And just as I turned to walk away, she saw the Canada flash on my shoulder [the shoulder patch mentioning Canada] and she said, oh, Canadien!, I said, oui. And she called me back and I got three eggs. But when she saw the Canadian flash, that rung a bell for her.
I think that was the most exciting part for me. We were in a place called Papenburg in Germany. That was south of Oldenburg and Hamburg and that area up in there, that was northwest Germany. And at the time, we were supporting the Polish Armoured Division [Polish 1st Armoured Division]. They were under Canadian command at the time and the Poles were … Yeah, we had to maintain communications with them to 2nd Canadian Corps, from the Polish Headquarters back to 2nd Canadian Corps and this is being done with underground telephone lines at the time.
And this is what, we were testing these lines and I remember, there was only two of us in Papenburg at the time and we were testing the telephone lines one morning, it was on the morning of May the 5th in 1945. And I heard someone yelling: ‘Ceasefire Number 11 anti-tank, ceasefire, don’t you know there’s a ceasefire?’ And, of course, I could not respond, I was not allowed to say anything. So what I did do then is I called back to my Canadian Corps Headquarters and asked for the signals officer and I told him what I heard. And he says: ‘That’s right, soldier, it’s all over with, the war is over, you can go out and get drunk now.’ And that was the end of it for us and we were very, very pleased.
I was able to find an old German from the First [World] War, he was a first war veteran and I told him it was over and he was the superintendent looking after the telephone exchange. And I asked him if he had a bottle of wine and he said, yes. So he got us a bottle of wine and this other fellow and I sat down and drank the wine. And that was the war, it was over for us, we were so pleased. It’s hard to explain how we felt.